A New Leaf: Episode 6
How horrible must it feel to visit a father you can’t remember, and realize that he despises everything you stand for? That’s only one of the blows that Seok-ju suffers this episode, the latest in a long line of unpleasant discoveries following his amnesia. It would be enough to break a weaker man, but Seok-ju soldiers on. He’s being pulled in many different directions, as his clients clamor for his attention and his conscience (as voiced by Ji-yoon, usually) valiantly tries to assert itself and lead him down a new path.
EPISODE 6 RECAP
Ji-yoon walks slowly out of the hospital, saddened by Seok-ju’s cold response to the news about the oil spill victim’s attempted suicide. Meanwhile CEO Cha arrives at the law firm, where people are hard at work cleaning up the site of the protest. His secretary notes that they cleaned up the site faster than expected, although a single fish remains half-hidden around the corner as a reminder of the demonstration.
Prosecutor Lee finally makes another appearance, as she discusses Hye-ryeong’s case with the prosecutor for her murder trial. They go back and forth over the evidence of the next-door neighbor, who happened to be calling an acquaintance when he heard his neighbor and an as-yet-unidentified woman yelling. Based on the lack of hard evidence to back up Hye-ryeong’s story, the hotshot lawyer recommends that Prosecutor Lee convince Hye-ryeong to plead guilty.
Then a call comes in with news that could be really good or really bad for the defense. The witness just so happened to be recording his phone call, since the person he was calling owed him money, and the police send the recording in to analyze the woman’s voice in the background. The magnitude of this coincidence smells fishy to me, but maybe that’s just because of all those fish that were thrown around earlier…
A new witness arrives to assist in the investigation, and who should it be but KIM HAK-TAE, otherwise known as Mr. Ex-NIS Agent with a penchant for making inconvenient women disappear. My blood pressure’s already rising as he’s taken in to watch CCTV footage of the day of the murder. He may know the delivery guy who arrives at one point, if shifty eyes and dramatic music are any indication, but he claims to only recognize Jung Hye-ryeong.
The prosecutor meets with Hye-ryeong next, and pressures her to confess. He says that she hasn’t suffered as much as the murder victim, and won’t get as much sympathy. He lays out the hypothetical scenario he wants her to admit to, in which she was angry and pushed her rapist but didn’t mean to kill him. The whole time, he acts like he’s doing Hye-ryeong a favor.
A gaggle of rough-looking men arrive at the firm, rudely walking right in front of CEO Cha. They speak informally and abruptly when an employee asks where they’re going, and CEO Cha quietly gestures for the employee to leave them be.
Jung now meets with her defense lawyer, who says that if she confesses, he can get her sentence reduced to accidental death from bodily injury. She accuses him of not believing her, but he calmly replies that what he believes doesn’t matter.
“Do you know how old you’ll be after fifteen years in jail?” he asks. “You won’t have much of a career at 50.” He even advises her to bribe Chief Kim, the prosecutor who’s known to be “flexible.”
The gang of toughs from before wait in Seok-ju’s office, while his colleagues gather around to gossip about why they’re here. Apparently pre-amnesia Seok-ju was defending their boss, and manufactured a two-week delay in order to produce a key witness.
A flashback clues us in to the fact that Seok-ju was operating with his usual shameless but effective courtroom chicanery. If he can’t find a witness, he tells his client, he’ll just delay the case again. Meanwhile, he keeps getting paid by the client and his henchmen.
The other lawyers note his ruthless efficiency with amusement, and Sang-tae even seems impressed, noting that there’s a side to his friend that not even he knew about. “I feel sorry for those guys,” he says. “Should we serve them tea?” I laughed at that, I have to admit, even if the lack of moral outrage from these lawyers still makes me gag.
The henchmen are none too happy about Seok-ju’s failure to provide a witness yet. They dump a pile of money on his desk, demanding that they get what they paid for. The camera cuts to Seok-ju and his client before the judge, who declares that because Seok-ju “couldn’t contact” the witness, he will make a final decision soon.
As Seok-ju and Ji-yoon leave the courtroom, they encounter Prosecutor Lee. She’s definitely not happy with Seok-ju, commenting sarcastically that he’s looking good. Seok-ju knows that Prosecutor Lee studied with him, and Ji-yoon has clued him in that their current relationship is not warm, to say the least.
Ji-yoon asks if she can go with Prosecutor Lee to visit Hye-ryeong, although the actress may not want to see her. Seok-ju immediately gives his permission for her to take off from work.
Ji-won enters the courtroom, looking pretty slick, when an elderly lady stops him to ask directions. Ji-won gestures his companions ahead and walks with her to the elevator, taking her bag on the way. Ah, why is it that his casual act of kindness gives me the heebie-jeebies?!
Ji-yoon and Prosecutor Lee are walking down the hall, discussing Seok-ju’s decision to let Ji-yoon follow up on this case. It’s not like him, but Ji-yoon tells the prosecutor that Seok-ju just wants to know why Hye-ryeong killed the chaebol heir. That’s enough for Prosecutor Lee, who reflects that Seok-ju must want to ease his conscience.
Ji-yoon sees Ji-won helping the elderly lady into the elevator, and greets him with a big smile. Prosecutor Lee nods politely, and Ji-won makes small talk about their various reasons for being in the courthouse.
Joining us in the increasingly crowded hallway are Seok-ju and his client’s thugs, who demand to know what he’s going to do if their boss isn’t acquitted. Seok-ju remains unruffled, replying that if the client is guilty he’ll go to jail, and if he’s innocent he’ll go free. After all the money that’s been paid out, this answer is not what the thugs want to hear.
Even more shocked than the clients is Prosecutor Lee, who witnessed the entire confrontation. This certainly doesn’t square with her picture of Lawyer Kim Seok-ju. “Is he sick?” she asks blankly. “He’s… a little sick,” Ji-yoon replies. A while later, Seok-ju gets a call from Kim Hak-tae, the former employee of the deceased chaebol heir.
Alone with Hye-ryeong, Prosecutor Lee discusses the actress’ options. The threat of jail time is looming larger, and Hye-ryeong is wavering on whether or not to plead guilty. She wants to stick to her guns, but if her lawyers can’t prove anything, then what can she do?
Prosecutor Lee meets with Ji-yoon afterward, and she’s literally shaking with rage and frustration. She knows that what the defense is doing is illegal. They’re deliberately trying to get Hye-ryeong to confess to a crime because there isn’t enough evidence to convict her cleanly.
Ji-yoon asks why she didn’t tell Hye-ryeong, but the prosecutor doesn’t want to repeat her past mistakes. She encouraged Hye-ryeong to follow the path of justice, and it ended horribly for her client. Telling her to stick it out now might be morally right, but it also might only make things worse by tying Hye-ryeong’s fate to a case she has little chance of winning.
When Ji-yoon meets with her aunt later that afternoon, it seems that Hye-ryeong’s predicament still weighs heavily on her mind. She asks Auntie about her grandfather, who was wrongfully imprisoned for over ten years. It affected him for the rest of his life and even made problems for his family, as Auntie had an engagement fall apart and Ji-yoon’s father failed several job interviews because of the societal prejudice towards ex-convicts.
It’s time for Ji-yoon to move into her swanky new apartment, and Auntie comes along to help her with her things. An employee gives her the passcode, and leaves the two women in possession of the apartment. Auntie is in heaven, inspecting the high-class digs and declaring that it’s big enough for the whole family.
Later, the two of them meet Seok-ju in the hallway. He’s confused to see them here, and Auntie is extremely polite after hearing that he’s a partner at the firm Ji-yoon works for. After her aunt leaves, Ji-yoon explains matters to Seok-ju.
He scoffs to hear that all this is on CEO Cha’s orders, and points out that Ji-yoon was the CEO’s subordinate this whole time. She points out that it’s not quite like that, and that CEO Cha is a caring, kind man… to which Seok-ju snipes that Ji-yoon seems to like every guy she sees. Pfft.
Ji-yoon barges in to Seok-ju’s apartment and fills him in on the developments regarding Hye-ryeong’s case. She plans to plead guilty in order to knock twelve years off her sentence, since she isn’t confident that she can win. Seok-ju wants to know why Prosecutor Lee isn’t trying to do anything, and Ji-yoon clues him in to how the previous trial against him broke the prosecutor’s confidence.
Seok-ju is clearly interested in the outcome of the trial now, saying that something is wrong if the trial lawyer is pushing for the reduced sentence. It isn’t how he would handle the case, and he suspects the prosecution is hiding something. Ji-yoon wants to call Hye-ryeong immediately, but Seok-ju tells her it won’t mean much coming from an intern. Then he leaves for an appointment, leaving Ji-yoon (and us) wondering if he plans to do anything for Hye-ryeong.
Meanwhile, Hye-ryeong meets one-on-one with the prosecutor who wanted her to confess. He once more spins the tale of her accidental manslaughter, while a fantasy sequence shows how the chaebol heir supposedly fell and hit his head after Hye-ryeong pushed him away. This time, when the lawyer asks if this was how it happened, Hye-ryeong replies, “Yes.”
Seok-ju meets Kim Hak-tae for a private chat, and the employee confides that he was questioned by the prosecution. Details of their previous cooperation come out slowly, and Seok-ju is cunning in his attempts to pump the other man for information.
It comes out that there are many more suspects who meant the victim harm, but even more important, he recognized the delivery guy who visited the house before the murder. He’s the boyfriend of one of the chaebol heir’s spurned lovers, one who was pregnant with his child. A call comes in from Hak-tae’s boss, and Seok-ju seizes the opportunity to type out the conversation for use later.
At the prosecutor’s office, we learn that the scumbag prosecutor never meant to honor his illegal deal with Hye-ryeong at all. When the voice recording comes back as a 98% match with Hye-ryeong’s voice, he decides to upgrade the charge to murder. When Prosecutor Lee confronts him in the hallway, the prosecutor smugly replies that backdoor plea deals are illegal.
Ji-yoon calls Prosecutor Lee and gets the bad news about the double-cross. She rushes to Seok-ju’s apartment, where he’s poring over records of his father’s life as well as his own. He answers the door, but when Ji-yoon tells him that the charge has been upgraded to murder, he merely replies that he knew this would happen.
He says brusquely that she should hire a better lawyer, and shuts the door in Ji-yoon’s face. However, he’s clearly affected by the news, which we see when he puts a hand to his forehead as if in pain.
At the law firm, CEO Cha takes a meeting for Seok-ju with the heads of City Bank. There’s an upcoming lawsuit worth billions, and they want Seok-ju to take the lead. CEO Cha promises the prospective clients a trio of talented lawyers as a replacement while Seok-ju finishes his “treatment,” but they won’t be happy until Seok-ju takes point. After they leave, CEO Cha hears from his lawyers that most of the firm’s employees believe that Seok-ju’s simple car accident, wasn’t. The prevailing theory is cancer, which would explain why Seok-ju’s acting differently and refusing to take on new cases.
CEO Cha comes to Seok-ju’s office, where he sees two pictures of Seok-ju’s father. Seok-ju asks if the CEO knew him, and hears a little more about the beginning of his father’s career. He was once a judge, but he gave up a promising career to rule in favor of students protesting for democratization back in 1974. Predictably he lost his job, became a human rights lawyer shortly after, and had a political career much later. We still don’t know why Seok-ju’s father spent time in jail, but as we’ll find out, it’s an interesting parallel between Seok-ju and Ji-yoon.
CEO Cha asks Seok-ju what his plans are once his treatment is over. Seok-ju wants to either take a break, or train in the US. The boss says he’s fine with that, although it would be better if Seok-ju’s memory returns.
Now alone in the office, Seok-ju makes a call to Prosecutor Lee after his secretary delivers the phone number. To the prosecutor’s considerable surprise, Seok-ju says he wants to meet to go over some details of Jung Hye-ryeong’s case.
As Seok-ju leaves, Sang-tae comes up to ask if he’s going to play basketball later. Seok-ju has a meeting, but he takes the opportunity to ask if Sang-tae knows Prosecutor Lee. Sang-tae is hurt that Seok-ju doesn’t remember how they used to date, and how he was depressed for weeks after she dumped him.
“Do you remember what you said to me at that time?” Sang-tae asks. Seok-ju doesn’t, and Sang-tae reflects that the assailant never remembers. He’s about to walk away, when the eavesdropping employees chorus, “What’d he say??” HA!
Sang-tae recalls Seok-ju’s cutting declaration that smart women have high standards, which cracks up the interns and even makes Seok-ju crack a smile. He leaves for his meeting, while a colleague counsels Sang-tae to let it go.
Prosecutor Lee doesn’t trust Seok-ju an inch, but she’s willing to meet with him. He shares his news about the delivery guy, though he doesn’t say how he came by the information. He counsels her to reinvestigate, and in return gets a look at the case file. The recording is the most crucial piece of evidence, and Seok-ju looks intrigued to hear how it came to be recorded.
Hye-ryeong meets with her lawyer, who informs her that the charge has been upgraded to murder. When she exclaims that she was only supposed to get three years, the defense lawyer says: “New evidence keeps coming up, so what are we supposed to do? Lawyers aren’t gods.” I’m losing count of the times this poor woman has been betrayed, but she weathers the bad news without falling apart. “When have you ever helped me?” she demands, and fires him on the spot.
Seok-ju heard from his uncle that his father is in the hospital, so he goes to see him. He brings a care package with him, and approaches his father with heartbreaking hesitation. His father, predictably, is not happy to see him, and concentrates on his newspaper.
After his father tells him coldly not to visit again, Seok-ju’s headache returns, strong enough that he can’t hide the signs. His father admonishes him, saying it’s no surprise he’s getting headaches with the kind of work he does. It’s a harsh blow, and his father doesn’t pull any punches. Seok-ju leaves the hospital room, reeling from the confirmation that his father hates the person he was.
The investigation concerning the delivery guy is now in full swing, but the chaebol’s people are way ahead of the police. They’ve doctored records concerning the suspect, and have sent a decoy to testify in his place. After the police interview the decoy, they pass the real delivery guy enough money to leave the country for a few months.
In the courtroom, Hye-ryeong declares her intention to proceed without a lawyer. However, because of the murder charge, the judge says that if she does not choose a new lawyer, the government will have to appoint one for her. After the court session, Hye-ryeong tells Prosecutor Lee that she’ll fight as hard as she can, but it may be time to accept her fate.
When Seok-ju returns, Ji-yoon is waiting for him on the balcony. She meets him at his door, upset and angry at Hye-ryeong’s new fatalistic attitude. She says that everything could be solved with a change of lawyers, and asks Seok-ju to recommend “a good lawyer like yourself.”
Seok-ju resists the obvious implication, instead saying that Ji-yoon should simply let the new lawyer know about the CCTV footage and the fake delivery guy. He closes the door, ignoring her continued protests.
Later that night, however, Seok-ju is still sitting at his desk, deep in thought. He checks the partial record of the conversation he overheard, guessing that Hak-tae may have been involved in taking care of the delivery guy angle. He calls Hak-tae, and confirms that the chaebol’s pregnant ex had an abortion, and manages to trick him into revealing the name of the nightclub where she works as a hostess.
Seok-ju is about to contact Ji-yoon, only to receive a call from her first. She’s distraught, and demands to know why he wanted to know about Hye-ryeong’s trial if he wasn’t going to do anything about it. Seok-ju gives her hope once more when he asks her to set up a meeting with Hye-ryeong the next day.
Although Hye-ryeong’s first instinct is to walk out the door, Seok-ju manages to convince her to hear him out. She wants to know why he’s even here, since he’s made enough money and achieved enough fame. Is he just bored, or does he want to ease his conscience?
“Did you kill him?” Seok-ju demands. “Whatever you say, I’ll believe you.” He gets up to leave, but Hye-ryeong bursts out, “I didn’t kill him!” Seok-ju sits back down, and meets Hye-ryeong’s eyes. “I believe you.”
Their work is only beginning, as Seok-ju tells his newest prospective client to write down everything she can remember about the day of the murder. He prepares to leave once more, leaving the choice up to her. “If you want to appoint me,” he says, “give me a call.”
And we’re off! Helping Hye-ryeong to an acquittal may not entirely make up for the wrongs Seok-ju has done, but as far as I’m concerned it’s a damn good way to start. Seok-ju has learned a lot about his former self by now, and it’s time he started fighting to become the person he wants to be. The problem now is that he has no shortage of enemies: the pressures of his firm and his increasingly clingy boss, the broken relationships of his former life, his own inner demons, and oh yeah… a corrupt prosecutor and a chaebol’s army of minions looking to put away Hye-ryeong for good. Good thing Seok-ju is a fighter!
I’m looking for more from Ji-yoon. I love her, but I want her to be more than Seok-ju’s moral compass. I’d love to see some development on the law firm front, as she becomes torn between CEO Cha’s demands and her changing relationship with Seok-ju. I’d almost like to see her betray Seok-ju, or struggle with choosing money and security over her moral code, so that she doesn’t remain the pure, naïve intern. So far she’s done a lot of nagging to make Seok-ju change his ways, but I haven’t gotten the sense that she’s ever had to struggle with her own sense of right and wrong.
It would be a nice bit of symmetry to have Seok-ju struggle to craft a new, better self, while Ji-yoon sinks deeper and deeper into CEO Cha’s clutches. Basically, I’d like a little more character development, to show that being good is not as simple as merely deciding to be. Growing up usually means learning that the world isn’t always black and white, which is something I’m not sure that Ji-yoon has learned yet. I’m firmly in favor of Ji-yoon and Seok-ju together, but I think they both have a lot of room to grow and I hope the show decides to let them.
I’m intrigued by Ji-won’s character, and I can’t wait for him to come into more direct conflict with Seok-ju. I may be reading the signs wrong, but I don’t think he’s as nice as his actions paint him so far. His small face-off with Seok-ju last episode was pretty revealing, as he led with a challenge even though (or maybe because) Ji-yoon was watching. I hope the many different conflicts brewing, of ambition and emotion, aspiration and redemption, emerge more clearly in the coming weeks.
And as long as I’m spinning out my hopes for this show, I want Seok-ju’s dog to come back from the afterlife as a ghost and snarky spirit guide. He’ll lead Seok-ju back to the right path, which of course would be becoming an upright judge and fighting to protect the weak and acquit the innocent. There could even be a spin-off series about Judge Seok-ju and his ghost dog: “A-ruff and the Magistrate!”